Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The current debt ceiling battle is a wonderful contrast of conservatism vs. liberalism and pragmatism vs. idealism, and why in both cases I fall into the camp of the former. 

Today America is weighed down by a national debt of over 14.2 trillion dollars and seemingly no way to dig out from under this mountain of IOUs.  While both parties have had a hand in the accumulation of this debt, it is under the current administration that our nation has seen an explosion of deficit spending not seen since the World War II era.  Democrats are so embarrassed by these levels of spending that they've refused to go on the record with their spending: we have passed the 800 day mark since our government has passed an annual budget.  Now we've hit our spending limit, and need to extend our debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on our debts.

But here we are 6 days from default and at a stalemate. But, as our President would say, let us be clear: the stalemate exists because Democrats alone are holding up this process.  For weeks now Republicans in DC have been negotiating against themselves trying to come up with a plan that will be enacted.  Rather than propose anything of their own, Democrats have stood on the sidelines criticizing GOP plans while offering no counteroffer to the process.  While Harry Reid has finally gotten around to introducing a plan on behalf of Senate Democrats, our President, the man supposed to lead the nation through tough times, has never proposed anything other than vague outlines at best. 

Anyone who followed the Hope & Change campaign of '08 should not be shocked by this lack of specific ideas from Obama, but I for one had hoped and prayed that two and a half years of leading the most powerful nation in the world would have given him enough wisdom to realize that a President does not merely fiddle and play games while the nation burns.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  In his address to the nation President Obama chose to give a partisan campaign speech rather than a thoughtfully considered proposal to solve the problem. 

Obama's continued objections to Republican proposals highlights the fundamental difference in how liberals and conservatives view our nation's debt problem.  To Obama and his fellow liberals, we must tax our way out of this crisis.  If we run a deficit it simply means that businesses, the rich and anyone else they decide to throw into that group at the moment are not paying their "fair share" and must be taxed more.  Never mind that the wealthiest 1% of Americans pay 2/5 of the income tax while making 1/5 of all income, or that America's corporate tax rate is the 2nd highest in the developed world, obviously they must be taxed more to fix our national debt.  I and other Republicans see things a little differently.  The problem of debt and deficits comes to us not because we tax too little but because we spend too much.  Bloated government agencies and boondoggles like the "Cash for Clunkers" program serve to exacerbate our spending problems and plunge us further into debt with nations like China.  The solution is to get off this spending train to destruction and truly assess what we spend and why, and find ways to cut back before it's too late.

With that said, this is not a process which can happen overnight, and that brings me to the battle within the Congressional GOP.  While the Bachmanns and DeMints of the party seem to feel that virtually no debt ceiling increase can be tolerated and that we can get all of what we feel is right immediately, this is simply too naive a concept for me to adopt.  It's time to assess where we are: Republicans control the House, but they do not control the Senate or the Presidency.  For anyone to believe that Republicans can achieve 100% of what is desired is foolish at best.  Speaker Boehner and the other Republican leaders in Congress understand this and will not throw out the good in pursuit of the perfect.  Boehner's proposal calls for an increase in the debt ceiling that comes in conjunction with spending reductions of a greater amount than the ceiling increase.  It does not raise taxes on anyone and it keeps our nation from default.  His plan constitutes responsible leadership and a recognition of what can actually be accomplished.  I hope that enough members of the House GOP will recognize that pragmatism must reign in this debate. 

America needs the pragmatic conservatism of the Boehner proposal to persevere through this present challenge.  Creating higher taxes cannot solve a problem brought on by a refusal to rein in spending, and destroying a proposal because one can only accept that which they consider ideologically "pure" fails to serve the national interest as well.

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